The premise of Jordan Thomas’ Quarantine is quite simple and easy to swallow in these strange times. A family is told that their entire apartment building is being quarantined in an alternate dimension and they will have to remain inside their flat until they get the all-clear. Sounds vaguely familiar. But the thing that sets this book apart from other lockdown-inspired tales is its pitch-perfect execution.
The first part of the story has the family of four going through the ups and downs of quarantine life that many have also experienced. The monotony of watching the same TV program over and over. The small squabbles that turn into larger arguments. The repetitive meals. The extra eyes growing out of the back of your neck. You know, the usual.
Things take a dark turn for the characters as the days turn to weeks. They find out that the quarantine isn’t all it seems, secrets lurking below the surface.
I won’t spoil the rest of the story, as I found the twist quite enjoyable, albeit heavily hinted at early on. But the twist isn’t what makes this book great – it’s the art.
While the comic’s sole writing credit goes to Thomas, he didn’t just collaborate with one artist on the book – instead, he went to 28. Each page of the book is drawn by a different artist, in their own style. Adding to this, nearly every page also depicts a different day. This creates an eerie kind of tension – not only do you not know what will happen on the next page, you don’t even know what the main characters will look like (an idea that ultimately circles round in unexpected ways). I have to say reading it digitally – in such a way that I couldn’t even glance at the next page to see the art – was quite a unique experience. I could almost hear a high-pitched hum in the back of my mind as I read. As the tension increased, so did the buzzing, which added to the atmosphere.
Speaking of the art – it’s phenomenal. Thomas clearly tried to work to each artist’s strengths, saving those best suited for the darker moments for later, while making use of the talents of the lighter-minded. For instance, Sarah Millman, known for her cartoony style, drew Day 2. Here, the family are still calm and finding wonder in their new surroundings. Meanwhile, Martin Simpson’s dark tones are kept for the climax, and makes for a rather dramatic end. It’s hard to pick out a favourite page among the bunch as they’re all quite excellent, but I particularly enjoyed Craig Paton’s page. It comes at Day 30 and gives us a glimpse into the lives of the rest of the building’s residents.
While every artist did their own interpretation of the situation, there was still an overall consistency. Thomas attributes this to Russell Mark Olson, who designed the characters and the logo of the Kindly Corp, the company sponsoring the quarantine. I would also credit Lettersquids’ lettering, which is mostly consistent across the board.
Overall, it was a very enjoyable commentary on current world events!